From information control to digital resistance


TRADUZIONE IN ITALIANO

Digital technology and expansion of internet gave life, since when they started to
spread broadly, to a veritable revolution of power relationships in the informational and communicational realm.
That is, it has made possible for an huge amount of people linked together to access, thanks to the
language of the bits, to broad quantities of information, to publish them and share them without any mediation
at all, nor any filter and therefore any censorship in their diffusion and browsing.

Growing
widespread use of these new technologies allowed the development of
complex social networks and virtual communities made up by real
individuals that, under the banner of creative cooperation and free
exchange of knowledge valourized their subjectivity (with the needs and
wishes it expressed), experimenting in a whole new lot of practises:
technical, political, artistical, novellistical, scientifical.

And everything about it takes place during a first phase much alien to state and governative control and market
influence, whose role first is reconsidered, then objected and finally well opposed.

P2P
(systems for sharing and exchanging music, movies and any other kind of
content inside a common network) little by little is dissolving the
system of intellectual property and the logic of culture mercification
that comes with it. Big corporations, which enjoy a monopoly in the
entertainment industry, see threatened along with their mediatory
stance in content distribution (software, music and video) also their
mainstream built on profit and characterized by a dismal cultural
misery. Musical labels and novellistic experiments are born and,
adopting a self-managed creation and distribution, decide to give value
to the inner meaning and freedom of the intellectual process of a
work’s creation, instead of its commercial implications.

Forms
of telematical protest like Netstrikes begin to be employed: virtual
parades where thousands of people occupy targeted sites’ bandwidth and
prevent access to them, blocking their activities. The first one was
organized by ECN in 1996 against the French nuclear tests at Mururoa,
and many other had followed.

Tactical
media (Isole nella Rete, Tactical Media Crew, New Global Vision,
web-radios, Indymedia) finds favourable soil and multiply, being active
protagonists in the struggles and conflicts of the last years, and in a
totally independent and horizontal way they can involve thousands of
people by trying to break the monopoly of information of the official
and institutional media, that we know being one of the key elements of
the rule of unique thought and capitalism.

Free
operative systems based on the Linux kernel boom, sons of the
practical, libertarian, anti-authoritarian and non-bureaucratical
mentality of the hacking spirit. Free software, implemented and
continually improved by countless legions of programmers, testers,
debuggers and simple users who can access the source code of which it
is made, grows more and more. The focal point that differentiates this
creative effort with a background of social experiment isn’t that much
gratuity but creation of programs free of any kind of intellectual or
economic monopoly.

This breakdown of the informational cycle, that comes with a communicative insurrection multiplied by the informatic
technology, made the peaks of the pyramids of power tremble, shaken in their basements. And Internet
has increasingly become a stage for conflicts and a net of unsolved tensions.

Governements,
institutions and global corporations react against this with a blind
and senseless fury (at first) and with more subtle strategies (then)
trying to normalize the net and leading it back inside the parameters
accounted for by the global market. Net frame must be changed, laws
that regulate it must be changed, general perception about it must be
changed. The imperative is for Internet not being a field of free
communication and access to knowledge anymore , but becoming a big
global super-market built in such a way to shape all its users into
possible consumers. The ultimate objective is the creation of a
"secure" informational environment, that means "protected" and purged
by any form of dissent and opposition or to "risk factors" that could
hindrace the flow of capitals and the commercialization of the net.

In
the last years we are witnesses of the development of a wide array of
tools to control the net’s information. Tools of control that, let’s
highlight that, are effective when the range of their action is made
possible and distributed on multiple layers, thanks to the realization
of powerful legal gimmicks, exploitation of existing technical
characteristics and introduction of new ones with clear functions of
surveillance, conditioning and repression.

From one side, network architectures and hardware that builds up computers and the software that we use on it are
more and more conceived and developed in such a way to result

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in some cases (as for server logs, cookies, web filters) as clear and
present tools of surveillance and monitoring on our activities,
attitudes, the way we move in the internet, which sites we visit, who
we talk with, which content we store on our HDD, what we do and when.

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In other cases as devices of limitation to resources and knowledge
otherwise available in the net’s mare magnum. Such an example is the
DRM (Digital Rights Management). Employed for the first time by Sony in
a musical cd, it is a kind of technical limitation which aims to manage
the whole life cycle of a digital object (a movie, a musical record, a
software, an e-book, an image) and that of its copies in such a way to
enable perpetual collection of property rights. These of which we are
talking about are certainly technical topics that anyway implement
clear political choices, that in the end state about who, how, when and
at what price can access the Net, and what kind of Net.

Political choices
that we find also in national and international legislations, more and
more repressive and blatantly arrogant. A frame of control of the
system of intellectual property, as brutal as inefficient, is started,
with the promulgation of laws that criminalize P2P (like the Urbani
decree), make possible a constant monitoring of file exchange networks
and lead to some repressive moments in which forced shutdown of various
servers of filesharing networks (such as Razorback2, e-donkey200, WinMX
and earlier the progenitor Napster), due to authorities’ seizure or
legal menaces by the majors, and prosecution of thousands people (even
if no one ended in some satisfying effect), takes place. Meanwhile,
intellectual property rights are extended beyond any conceivable period
and accordingly, without any reasonable criterion (except for the
odious one of exploitation of communal knowledge), the ensemble of the
targets of such rights is broadened, taking into account things that
until yesterday were considered common goods: from the most ordinary
foods to vernacular music, from the most basic mathematics’ alghorytms
that consitute the operative systems of our computers to universitary
research, not to mention the (human or else) DNA sequences.

And
after semptember 11th the endless war unravels also in the global
fabric of the net: in 2003 FBI seizes illegally the Indymedia servers
in London. The following year, Autistici/Inventati suffers seizures,
first of a satyrical site (in which the active role and participation
of Trenitalia in the Iraqi killings was exposed) and then of the
content of the mailbox server’s hard disks, that hosted the mailboxes
of thousands users. The Pisanu decree (approved in 2005) thanks to the
artificially-constructed panic and the silent approval of the majority
of the Parliament’s political forces, gives approval to a package of
laws that enables a practically endless data retention of Italy’s
internet users, therefore making social control on the net more and
more extended and pervasive.

Even
the market plays its role in this match: many are nowadays the efforts
to cooptate and fraudolently discipline the practices of free
communication and diffusion of information, trying to bring them back
in the framework of the production-consume cycle. The most visible and
blatant tests are those involving creation of sites that on behalf of
the big discographical industry sell mp3 for few dimes (destroying
every logic of sharing and exchange). Other softer and subtler tools
are linked to the open-source software (OPEN IS NOT FREE), that dumping
the concept of freedom proper of the free software and of the hacker
culture propose themselves to the market as a suitable commercial
strategy, ready to expropriate without too many political and ethical
dilemmas the knowledge and experience of the net users, transforming
even cooperative moments into a model for business and profit. Without
forgetting the role of search engines that, though being absolutely
necessary to surf the ever-raging and bursting sea of the net, are also
commercial services that alter in totally arbitrarian ways (often due
to commercial interests and strong censorship pressures) the ranking of
the websites.

As
a background for this ensemble of tecno-control, market conditioning
and authoritarian legislation, we find the mediatic terrorism by the
ufficial organs of television and press: more and more Internet is
presented as an "hut" notoriusly frequented by violent dissident
subversives or reckless pedophiles. An evergreen is the old story of
the nefarious hacker that, thanks to his operative systems make dams
explode and floods entire regions of eastern China, practices black
magic online with the Bestie di Satana through MSN, desecrates the
holiness of the Vatican’s site by using the mouse to fornicate with the
animated gif of the Saints Peter and Paul or melts the ice of the poles
if needed. The P2P is blamed as the epicenter of a fair share of the
world’s undoings: from vehicling violent and uneducative contents to
sorting centre for communiques by Al-Qaida or that month’s other
fashionable terrorist organization.

So we see how
constructing hierarchies and closing access to information (and
presenting as a fiendish misdeed the idea of share it) an effort to
impose a behavioural censorship on the user’s interaction with
techonologies is taking place, a forced normalization of the digital
device use. An use that becomes limitant and limited and that flattens
one’s ability to mold the matrix of reality in an autonomous way,
altering the interaction with the machines and converting them (well
often without the subject knowing about that) into control devices or
into mere objects ready for consumption.

To
avoid the shutdown (or the radical transformation) of the net, armored
bit after bit by control architectures, by lawsuits from the
copyright’s and patents’ corporations, by oppressive bureaucracies and
obscurantists law formation processes, we must be able to trace some
escape and opposition routes against knowledge mercification and global
control strategies.

A
critical and creative attitude and the knowledge of the functioning
mechanisms of the machines and digital devices allows their liberatory
and playful employment, useful to fulfill needs and wishes
(communicational or else) but also to disarray, circumvent and
monkeywrench endlessly the closed systems based on profit created after
control and scarcity. In this way, a self-formation and a costant
research for knowledge become necessary; they cannot be just related to
a merely individual intellectual process but are to be found into
participation, exchange, cooperation and moltiplication of the
knowledge that unfolds in the many and chaotical social communities
driven by the same happy passions: the will of a free communication,
the need to satisfy needs and give way to one’s wishes and his
curiosity, putting firmly hands on the machines and enjoying total
access to the information.

But
if we do recognize the inherently capitalistic nature of the dynamics
of surveillance and control of which we have talked, then we do
recognize the need to move in a much broader perspective, too. It is
necessary to add to the practices of the opening and re-appropriation
of the socially-made knowledge also the creation of virtual and
non-virtual places, not having them just be neutral nodes of knowledge
transmission – because this could turn out to be a double-edged sword.
If the P2P is just perceived as a tool to get the last christmas
efforts of the Vanzina Bros, the Hollywood trash, the conservative and
trickily fascists videogames designed and realized with the Pentagon’s
support, then it risks to become the next "weapon of mass distraction".
If we are satisfied by just burning proprietary programs with unknown
code, then we do no such thing other than favour who retains their
monopoly, contributing to spread closed standards and formats,
unchangeable and unaccessible to everyone (so risking in addition to
stumble upon gimmicks of surveillance on our actions). But even if we
consider Linux just as a free (even if now it isn’t always like that)
and more efficient substitute of Windows, then we risk to give way to
new forms of open capitalism. And in the same way, even if we manage to
digitalize and make available every university text we do need (a very
demanding task indeed!) this wouldn’t change at all the process of
In/formation that storm us making us precarious always ever.     

The main point today isn’t that much (or at least not only) in the opening, but in the framing of the alternative
dynamics that participate in production, re-elaboration and diffusion of knowledge.

It
isn’t enough to be able to use a computer and know the source code of
the operative system, but is important to self-grow a critical
conscience about both working mechanisms of digital media and how these
affect informational flows that pervade the everyday of the net (and
not only) and go to prime much wider political, economical and social
processes.

The keyword is making networks with different subjects with whose a critic of virtual tools could be done, and
with whose experiment against-knowledge and counter-knowledge to enable us to be (and be perceived as) active
and autonomous subjectives in the creation and upkeep of a free Internet.

Let’s
free knowledge and spread free standards, damage official networks and
build some alternative ones, learn about surveillance systems of the
informational society to counter their effectiveness, breed a
subversive stance in the use of technology and use it to flank social
struggles and magnify their impact.

 

Copy.Riot Project
B.A.Z. Crew

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